This wealth of time during lockdown seemed an appropriate time to start investigating those cooking projects of yesterday.. brining your own salt beef, making preserves, fermenting. What better time to revisit Diana Henry’s wonderful tome of preservation, Salt Sugar Smoke: How to Preserve Fruit, Vegetables, Meat and Fish. It’s just a shame that I had a massive clear-out of most of my hoarded empty jars the week before lockdown.
Flicking through the pages, Pink Grapefruit Marmalade seemed an easy path to preserving. It required only regular granulated sugar (the cornershop variety), some grapefruit and a lemon. No special preserving jam, powdered pectin, fancy ingredients. Winner winner marmalade dinner. I’ve also been watching a lot of Great British Menu, celebrating British children’s literature. I can tell you that all the references to Paddington’s emergency marmalade sandwiches have got me hankering for a stash of my own.
My Marmalade Mission
First I had to quarter and juice the grapefruit, then I had to scrape all the pulp and seeds from the skin, which was much more time consuming than you’d expect. Then I had to slice all the scraped skin into the thin shreds you get in marmalade. Again, not difficult but time consuming. The pulp (now wrapped in muslin), shredded skin and juice now had to be simmered away till the shreds were nice and soft.
Pulpy muslin removed, the 2kg of sugar could then be added to the juice and shreds before the real action happens. Boiling the marmalade till the pectin and sugar work their magic and create the ‘set’. I don’t have a jam thermometer so I had to rely on the wrinkle test which is a bit too open to error for my liking. After about 35 minutes, nearly three times the suggested 12 minutes, I think my marmalade was finally ‘wrinkling’, but I think I was really just imagining this for my own sanity. I had run out of plates in the freezer to perform the wrinkle test so had to stop anyway.
The marmalade seemed a bit thin and runny, despite the marathon boil. I consoled myself that it would be fine for baking, or for glazing meat or tofu. I could only hope that once the marmalade cools in jars, it’ll be nicely set. Several hours later, the jars are cool enough so go into the fridge, but the marmalade is still disappointingly runny. A few hours later, grabbing a beer from the fridge, well, a true quarantine miracle has happened. The marmalade was set. Perhaps, a little too set, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Was it worth it?
Well, I normally buy pink grapefruit marmalade from the Ludlow Food Centre for about £4 a jar. By comparison, I made 8 jars for a similar price. So home made marmalade seems both excellent value and delicious. The shreds were a bit chunky, but that adds to the rustic charm. The only disappointment was the orange hue, I’d hoped for a pretty blush pink preserve.
I’ll definitely make more marmalade once I’ve replenished my hoard of jars, but I have a jam thermometer on order for next time.
The recipe for Pink Grapefruit Marmalade is on page 37 of Salt Sugar Smoke.. definitely worth a purchase if you’re curious about some slow-food moments.